I suspect that I was the lone Teal ranger, so felt compelled to draw attention to this excellent City Half Marathon, of which I was informed is now the second largest in the UK, after the GNR. With other 20,000 participants, it wouldn’t surprise me.
It also proves the old adage that you get out what you put in! I’ve been training really hard with this race in mind, embarking on a roughly outlined 12 week plan incorporating a lot more speed work than usual and learning to love the treadmill in Harborne gym. The objective was simple – I hadn’t run under 90 minutes since early 2011 and didn’t know if this was a possibility, but I was going to give it a damn good go! Why Cardiff? I have family locally so logistically it worked well and I fancied another Big City Half (a change from Birmingham). It was also rumoured to be a quick, flat course, so why not?
Anyhow, after crawling through traffic to park up in Cardiff City’s football ground, it was a pleasant 1 mile walk to the Castle and the start, with the sound of Bread of Heaven (Barry would have been proud!) ringing out. I hadn’t realised quite how large the event is though and made the school boy error of having to start at the very back of the 1.45 pen, not the best place to be. The conditions were ideal though; drizzly and only about 10 degrees, as I bobbed and weaved my way through the runners in my pen, past the football ground again and towards the coastal town of Penarth. We then had excellent views of the Cardiff Bay, ran through the Coastal Barriers and worked our way back to the City Centre (via Splott – what a great place name), with good musical support. The course then took us back up out of the City through Roath, Lakeside and Cathays (for those who know Cardiff) before presenting a devilish little hill about half a mile from the end, and completing the course back at the Castle.
My strategy was polar opposite to how I usually run; I tend to get progressively faster through the race. This time though I aimed to start at 10km pace, check progress after each 5km, and maintain for as long as possible and just hang on. With 10km splits of 20.39, 20.46 and 20.39 for the first 15km, all was going well and running ahead of the 1.30 pacer, I knew I had a good chance of hitting my goal. The last 5km was a struggle, I was trying to hang on to a couple of guys ahead of me and being a large field, there was always someone to aim for, which undoubtably helped. There was definite relief to see the Castle coming back into the City Centre, and although it was feeling a lot slower, in reality the pace was dropping only from 6.40 per mile to about 6.45’s (strange how the mind can play tricks). Crossing the line with a pseudo-sprint I was delighted with 1.28.06, not only under my goal time, but also a PB by almost a minute!
So I guess I can only really highly recommend this race, particularly if you want a flat course suited to quick times and a friendly atmosphere. So what’s the next challenge? The moral dilemma – I’ve enjoyed NOT training for a marathon this year, but typically the cruel mistress has delivered a London Marathon place via the ballot for the Spring. Typical! On to the next adventure and next training block, back on the hamster wheel ….